Art is a learned skill which anyone can do successfully with practice, the same way an instrument or a sport is learned. This idea is one I reiterate to my students continually. My classes are balanced between technique and creativity with projects focusing on self expression, social issues, or other meaningful ideas to the students. Through this expression, they learn to question themselves and the world using higher level thinking. I encourage students to trust their own intuitive ideas and think about their lives and the world in deeper ways. Students will meet whatever expectations I set for them, so it is important to believe in their capabilities so they will believe in themselves. My lessons always involve a great deal of active participation from students and utilize the Essential Elements of Instruction (EEI).
An important aspect of all of this is my development of relationships with students so they will be comfortable expressing their ideas. Students have to know that you care before they care what you know. When students are working on their artworks, I make sure to talk to and help each student before the class period is over. It is important to consider each student’s individual needs, learning style, special accommodations, and personality when teaching. This allows each student to be successful and confident in their abilities. I often help students with personal hardships they express in their artworks or discuss with me after class. Knowing that I am someone they can talk to is important to me.
Often times, art class is the only place students learn about other cultures. Learning to appreciate and enjoy other cultures helps students to be more open minded, understanding, and accepting. I teach multicultural art partly through the use of interactive virtual field trips to places I have been. While teaching students about the similarities we all share, we discuss the art and culture of a given country. We study how visual culture portrays certain cultures and discuss real experiences to help dispel negative stereotypes.
Along with teaching multicultural art, it is also important to teach students about visual culture and contemporary artists. I teach about art history from multiple time periods, including a balance of male and female artists from Renaissance through present day. For each lesson, students learn about several artists exploring similar ideas in a variety of styles. Students then explore the given big idea in their own work. Other times, artworks may be project based, with students defining their own learning objectives and methods of achieving them.
I also incorporate service-learning through student collaborations with communities to create artworks that are meaningful. This teaches students to be generous in giving their time to a worthy cause and helps them to understand and value others. My hope is that they will continue to create social change throughout their lives and be kind to everyone along the way. In this way, they become active agents for peace and social change.